how to use a planner, how to plan

Simple Beginners Guide to How to Use a Planner

Welcome to my super simple guide to how to use a planner for beginners.  

Life is complicated enough (the reason we need planners in the first place), so I wanted to make this simple, straightforward guide for beginners.  

Once you get these basics, you will be able to successfully use a planner to stay organized.  

And isn’t that the point?  Well, some will say the point of a planner is the look and feel (you know, all those stickers!) and I agree, that can be a big part.  But the focus of this guide is to get you knowledgeable and familiar with the different ways to use a planner.

In this guide, you’ll learn ways to set up and organize your planner, how to use a planner, as well as fun planner ideas for beginners to really customize your planner to suit your needs and desires.

What Are Planners Used For?

I’m sure, as a planning beginner, you may be wondering, what to use a planner for?  The exact thing you use your planner for will ultimately depend on your personal life.  But in general, planners are used to–you guessed it–plan.   

Plan your goals, schedule, and tasks at different levels of your life.  

You can use a planner to stay organized with everything from the newest tv series you want to watch that month to all of your health appointments for the coming year.  You can plan business goals and milestones, holiday activities, or your kid’s soccer schedule.  

Why Use a Planner to Get Organized?

Perhaps your question is less about what to use a planner for and more about why–why should I use a planner?  

Well, you don’t need someone to convince you.  You can already see your jumble of a life, you see what’s working and what’s not working.  

Or do you? 

If you are learning how to plan as a beginner, you may not fully realize that by simply writing down your plans you are 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to accomplish them!

Sometimes we need to write down what’s going on in our lives to have a clear view of what isn’t working.  Some planners even go month by month (or goal by goal) with review pages for what is and what isn’t working.  

This is why using a planner will help you get better organized.  

Even if your planner doesn’t have this type of review prompt, simply writing down your tasks for the week can spark your remembrance of them in a concrete way and lead you to judge at the end of the week what was accomplished (and if it wasn’t, you can determine why).  

Without doing this simple task of writing it down, honestly, you may go weeks or months without looking at if you are making progress.  

Remembering to review your tasks is actually one important planner tip in how to use a planner for beginners. You should make the habit of reviewing your planner because, again, some planners won’t have this review area.  

Different types of planners have different sections which could benefit or annoy you depending on your needs. Let’s go over which planners are best for beginners.

Types of Planners for Beginners

Beginner planners have lots of options when it comes to types of planners.  The majority of planners are fit for planning beginners – meaning, they are basic. 

When you go to Walmart, Dollar tree, or any other general needs store, you will find that most of the planners are simple. 

And in my mind, too simple. 

Granted, most people don’t take planning seriously and they just want a calendar to keep track of their appointments or just to quickly note their menu plan for the week.  And that’s okay.

If this is you, you will probably find the planner you need pretty easily.

However, there are many types of planners out there, so let’s go over the most popular types.

Minimalist/Simplistic Planners

These are the common planners I mentioned above. Generally, they have monthly calendars (sometimes that’s it), a weekly spread, and perhaps a notes section. You might also get a contacts page. These are straight-forward and easy to use.

Bullet Journals

Also easy to use, bullet journals are also pretty simple but can become way out of hand. They are for the creative person who has a little more time (or makes time for this hobby planner). You buy a blank book, sometimes with dotted lines, and you create the spreads, the calendars, the trackers, or whatever you want in a planner.

Day Planners

Day planners are usually a little more involved than simplistic planners. They may include a few more sections, like maybe a grocery list, sometimes there are quotes and they have more fun designs. Like this beautiful Bloom Day Planner (see below).

Designer Planners

Erin Condren Planners are beautiful and top-tier planners.

Customizable Planners

The Happy Planner is probably the most well-known customizable planner.

My current one is beautiful and helpful (although still not exactly what I need). It’s called The Very Busy Planner by Amy Knapp.  You can see the quick flip-through of this day planner here:

There are also planners to fulfill the specific need you have for organizing your life.

These categories include:

  • Productivity/Goal Planners
  • Schedulers
  • Health and Fitness Planners
  • Travel Planners
  • Financial Planners
  • Business Planners
  • Blogging, Youtube, or Social Media Planner
  • Work Planner

There are tons of planners that may work for you.  It takes time to explore the different ones, but Rachel over at Smart Mom Ideas has done a lot of the work for you with her Best Planners for Moms review. But of course, many of these are high-priced.

What if I can’t afford a fancy planner? 

No problem. If you are a beginner planner, the very basic, simplistic planner will be a good place to start.

Many of these you can grab at most stores with a stationery aisle for less than $15. You’ll be much happier starting out with that than if you invested in a $38.99 planner. Learn to control a smaller space while getting in the habit of planning your days. You can use this basic planner to discover the kind of planner sections your life requires.

If you want to try something today, that’s meant for beginners, I created a simple Day Planner that you can print off as many times as you need. 

This day planner will allow you to keep track of what’s most important for your day including:

  • The top 3 things to do in your day
  • Any calls, appointments, or events going on that day
  • A few of your current goals
  • What to focus on in the week
  • An ongoing to-do list, for those things that you want to remember but can’t do that day
  • And a notes area where you could put reminders, an inspirational quote, or the menu for that day

My Day Planner comes in both pink with cherry blossoms and blue with a blue rose.  Depending on your mood for the day you could use one or the other. 

downloadable planners for how to use a planner for beginners - blue rose version

How to Set Up Your Planner

For beginners to know how to use a planner, you need to know how to set it up to work for you. I thought the easiest way would be to visually show you how to set up your planner. Not that there is a lot to it for a beginner, but still, I always like someone to give me visuals.

Familiarize yourself with the planner setup

Get familiar with the layout of your planner. Just take a few undistracted minutes to look over the sections of the planner, the size of the spaces, the calendar layout, and if it’s dated or undated.

Color Coding

I’m going to discuss color coding here, but you might want to revisit this after you’ve finished the setup.

It’s a good (optional) idea to create a color system for your planner. You can choose 2-4 colors for different functions in your planner.

Now if you are using a bullet journal you will probably have more colors, but I don’t recommend getting too many as a beginner planner. Colors could be used to mark things as done, pending, incomplete, needing to be moved to a new day, etc. Colors can also be used to highlight or make notes, adjustments or point out errors.

Color coding is completely unnecessary for learning how to use a planner, but I thought I would mention that your planner can include some pazazz.

Creating a Schedule/Routine

Take some time to brainstorm how you’d like to set up your planner and your days. Maybe you create a big picture weekly routine or you might want a detailed, hour-by-hour schedule.

Whichever method you choose, the first thing to do is set up a routine for your day and week. Think about how your days seem to flow now, what things land on which days.

What are your limitations, when are your availabilities?

I would recommend writing down your general ideas in your planner. If your planner does not even have a notes section for something like this, you can use a separate notebook or piece of paper that you can tape inside.


Now that the initial parts of the setup are done, we can actually get started writing! With your new schedule in mind, get out all of your appointment cards, school flyers, work emails, and random notes and plot out your current to-dos and calendar.

If something doesn’t mesh with your new schedule if it’s something you can change, grab your phone and reschedule things. Just make sure you put everything pending into a to-do slot or calendar date. There are 2 exceptions to this.

Master to-do list

This is one exception to how to set up a planner by plotting everything. There are some tasks that may be rolling around in your head but is not something you can do right now, mainly due to the immediacy of other tasks.

For this long and ongoing to-do list, it’s better to get it out of your head.

Pick a section (probably the notes section) to add a running list of tasks that you aren’t able to accomplish that day, week, or necessarily that month, but they are things you need to keep in mind. You can pull from this list every time you need to make your to-do list.


The second exception is projects. When you set up your planner, plotting in projects is a problem. How to use your planner when it comes to projects is to divide and conquer. Take each project and divide it into smaller but natural parts. Then look at each part and think, can this be accomplished in one sitting? If I have 30 minutes a day available for this, can I finish it in just one 30-minute time slot?

Projects can be very complicated, so we’ll discuss them more in another post. For now, just know, if you are doing a multiple-task project, you cannot just plot it in a timeslot and even taking a whole day may not be enough.

Don’t expect a planner to make miracles.

Ways to Organize Your Planner

The way you organize your planner will depend on the types of plans you have as well as how you use your planner.

You can keep your planner organized by making checklists, keeping notes, and staying aware of the type of plans you have.

Plans can come as one-day vs. recurring and scheduled vs. unscheduled.

How to Use a Planner for Beginners Types of Plans Infographic

Looking at your to-dos, events, and appointments, decide which slots these fall into. Plot all of the activities into your planner (as shown in the How to Set Up Your Planner section), so you can get a good feel for how your day and week will go. The most difficult to plan are the unscheduled plans.

Regularly using a planner and knowing your regular to-dos does allow you the flexibility to jump into unscheduled things.  

For example, if you know that every Wednesday your schedule is packed, but on Thursday afternoons you are always free, when someone calls you up to join in an event for the next day (an unscheduled event) you’ll know what to do. 

If the next day is Wednesday you can quickly tell them you cannot join. If the next day happens to be a Thursday, and the event is in the afternoon, you can easily say yes. So, as you can see, knowing your planner inside out is a must.  

Ideas for Customizing Your Planner

This is a great time to talk about ideas for how to use your planner. Personalizing or customizing your planner will make your planner yours. You will more likely use it and it will be pretty straightforward what to do in your planner every time you sit to plan. Some ideas for how to customize your planner are:

  • Sticky notes for color, creativity, and extra note space
  • Color. Color-coding or just adding color to the covers, calendar or other pages
  • Stickers can be a great addition to a calendar or any page, there are lots of fun stickers
  • Sections. Even in a standard simplistic planner, you can create your own sections like, “Don’t Forget”, quotes, gratitude, top 3 priorities, etc.

My Planner Story (Example of Ways to Use Planners)

How to Use a Planner for Beginners my planner story

Now I have been creating and using planners since I was in 3rd grade (literally folks!).  But I noticed at the beginning of my blogging journey that my life had a lot of specific categories. 

I couldn’t keep it all organized. 

I was wondering, “How do I organize and plan all of the different life categories using one planner?”  

A couple of years ago I bought four student planners from the Dollar Tree.  The covers were cute and it was back-to-school time when my stationery fixation goes into overdrive.  

When I posted photos of these on Instagram, people thought I was using them for my kids to be ready for back to school.  However, they were all for me, since I didn’t have a paper planner at the time (I was using digital solutions like Evernote).

In the first planner, I managed my social media. As a blogger, social media is highly important. I created my perfect schedule and kept it logged in my planner.  

My second planner was for my blog.  Creating a content calendar allows me each week to know what post I’m creating and schedule time to research, write, edit, etc. 

The third planner was my homeschool planner (which I’ve upgraded to this one since then). This planner helped me to see how to fit in time to teach my newest student, who is a preschooler, and keep her occupied while the older ones have my attention.  

The fourth one was my mommy at home planner. This is the essential one that keeps my family going. This has things like cooking and cleaning routines, appointments, family goals, and kids’ chore schedules. 

Of course, this isn’t the best way to use planners by spreading out to use FOUR planners at once but it worked for me at the time.  It helped me because I have a whole book and calendar for the different areas of my life. 

Keeping everything separate was easier for me since essentially I have my family duties plus 2 occupations.  

I’m telling you one of my planner stories to give you some planner ideas for beginners. 

All of these areas of life can, of course, be organized inside of one planner, however, I’m still on the search for that perfect planner.   

My Top 3 Planner Tips for Beginners

A 1-2-3 step tip of how to use a planner for beginners! But if you'd like the full guide, including how to set up, color-code ideas and more, read the post !

I could say so much about planning and planners but since this post is so much longer than I expected it to be I will wrap up with my top 3 planner tips for beginners.  

Planner Tip #1 for How to Use a Planner

Always write appointments in pencil.  If the appointment is with a friend or with your dentist, just pencil it in.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to re-write an appointment.

Planner Tip #2 for How to Use a Planner

Use only one paper planner.  There are lots of digital tools that you can use in conjunction with your paper planner, but for everyday life stuff, I would recommend just one.  And if you read through this post you know I have experience doing both.

One downfall about using more than one planner for things of like nature is that you forget where you put something and waste time hunting it down. 

Although I don’t use four planners anymore, this is my current problem. Because I can’t put all of my blog work into my current planner, I have a few notebooks where I jot notes and it’s confusing. 

Planner Tip #3 for How to Use a Planner (Most Important)

Don’t get nailed down with the format.  With all the new bullet journal rage going on, everyone tends to think their planner needs to be a certain format or design. 

It doesn’t.

My number one piece of advice for beginner planners is to make sure your planner is functional for you.

If it’s too much work to make pretty spreads, don’t.

If it costs too much, don’t buy it. 

If you can’t keep up with all the trackers and prompts, forget it.

You do you.

Summary of How to Use a Planner

Once you accept that your planner is now your best buddy, and you are dedicated to using it either morning, night, or both, the steps to how to use a planner won’t seem overwhelming. In fact, you will wonder how you ever functioned without it.

FAQs About How to Use a Planner

Is it worth it to have a planner?

Yes, having a planner will motivate you to get your life organized. You will be less forgetful about your tasks and you will get more done.

What should I put in my planner?

Your planner should include the things most relevant to you. Put your dates, events, to-dos, routines and goals.

How do beginners use planners?

Beginner planners should use very basic planners until they get the hang of things. Creating a weekly or daily routine, then plotting in their tasks in the appropriate timeslots that make sense for their personal routines.

What is the best way to use a planner?

Daily. The best way to use a planner is by daily reviewing and updating your planner.

How to use a digital planner?

1) Choose a digital planner that works for you. 2) Get an understanding of the options and setup for that specific planner. 3) Add your tasks to your planner.

How to use a planner when you don’t have plans?

It may seem like you have no plans, but even the simplest things like school assignments or doctor appointments count as plans. If you feel you don’t have enough activities in your life, start there and get active in your community, meet up with friends, look at your household needs and finances, and see what you need to do. Use your planner to organize it all.

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  1. Great post! Comprehensive and helpful! I agree that one’s planner should be functional to one’s needs. It should meet, or cater to, one’s requirements.